Get your linen in line

Last week I commented at feelgoodknitting on a posting about linen yarn and how I treat it. There were some follow-up comments and since I had a linen tunic lying around anyway, waiting to be washed, I took the opportunity to show you how I get my linen in line. (Sorry about the pun)

Maybe this is obsolete if you tumble-dry your laundry – I air-dry everything, so I wouldn’t know how linen reacts to that.

Leah Tunic (pattern by Purl Soho) in Linen yarn

Ok, this particular tunic is made from pure linen and knit in stockinette stitch on rather small needles. That’s my favorite combination for linen yarns – no complex stitch patterns. It fits the crispness and clearness of the material.

I wash linen knits with hot water and normal detergent in the washing machine (I wouldn’t do that to most of my other handknit pieces) and let them dry on the clothesline (preferably outside in the sun, but the cellar or bathroom will do in winter). If I’ve got the time, I try to catch the moment when it’s still a little damp, but I didn’t manage that yesterday.

After that treatment the tunic is dry, clean and crisp, but rather stiff and sort of „scruffy“. That’s when my trusty steam-iron get’s center stage.

Step 1: Evict cats from ironing board

After evicting the cats from the ironing board – which, they presume, is like everything else in the world put up solely for their benefit – I spray the fabric with water (cats not amused by this), put the iron on highest setting and iron away.

After spraying the linen with water, go wild with the steam-iron.  All that “scruffiness” will have to go!

This will, of course, flatten the stitches. I wouldn’t recommend it for loosely knit fabrics or anything you’d like to be fluffy. After ironing with enough pressure, the knitting will actually look and behave more like woven fabric and a high enough temperature will produce a soft sheen. Don’t be afraid of setting the temperature too high – pure linen can take a lot of heat!

Before…

… and after. Evened out quite a bit.

Before descent with your steaming irons on your linen knits I’d recommend to try it out on a small piece (maybe the gauge swatch, if you still have it). My linen yarns are mostly untreated, robust and densely twisted – other yarns might react differently.

Ironing won’t do any good to cables, garter or reverse stockinette, but I definitely use the steaming function on them to soften up the fibres and give the fabric a better drape. I haven’t had any trouble with stretching yet.

Do you have any tips for treating linen knits? Or had any bad experiences with ironing linen? I’d love to hear about it.

2 thoughts on “Get your linen in line

    • No favorite brand – some of it is even my own handspun (though I’ve given up on spinning linen, it’s no fun). So it’s probably just that I always gravitate towards similar yarns because I like the look and feel of them.

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